Since 1995, the Valencia County News-Bulletin has been recognizing a Citizen of the Year and Unsung Heroes each year.

They’re all people who do things out of the goodness of their hearts — folks who go above and beyond for their community.

Those who have been honored for nearly three decades come from all walks of life, from historians to homemakers, educators to business leaders, organizations to coaches and veterans to youth.

It has been our pleasure — our privilege — not only to be able to honor each and every one of these locals, who are a vital component in our community, but that we are able to have the opportunity to meet with them individually, get to know them and write about all the wonderful things they’ve done and continue to do for Valencia County.

It takes a special kind of person to give of themselves without asking for anything in return. Each and every one of the people we’ve honored throughout the years do what they do for their community not for the recognition but for the simple fact that they want to help and make a difference in Valencia County.

The following names are a list of the folks who have been recognized in the past 27 years by the Valencia County News-Bulletin.

1995: Dolph Schlies, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Jim Foley, Kevin Kronk, musical group Los Originales, Don McConnell, Jeremy Nicholas Padilla and Joanne Romero.

1996: Edwin Berry, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Luz Chavez, Glenn Oliver, John Pope, Yvonne and Richard Riley, David and Susan Sloan, Sara Storey, Janet Tooker, Diane Urtiaga and Sandy Wayne.

1997: Ronnie Torres, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Terry Baber, Mary Cate, Pam Davis, Chris Franzoy, George Hobbs, Dolores Padilla, the Herman Sanchez family and Ernie and Isabel Salazar.

1998: Pam Etre Perez, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Harvey House volunteers, Lee Henson, Desiree Hoogerhais, Henry Jaramillo, Elizabeth Mason, John McDonald and Tom and Ruth Vincent.

1999: Charlie Peña, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Ruperto Baldanado, Lupe and Willie Ferguson, Russell Griego, Vernon Honeyfield, Bill Pearman, Dorothy Raether, Dorothy Riley, Bob Sanders and Pat Torrez.

2000: Maurine McMillan, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Fred Gallegos, Wayne Gallegos, Juli Hutchins, Cortes and Mabel Kibble, Rita Gallegos Logan, Ron McDevitt, Christian Rodriguez, Boni and Eloisa Tabet and Gail Wall.

2001: Cindy Valenzuela, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Ramon Baca, Eddie Benevidez, Duane Fritz, Pete Gallegos, Veda Marrow, Mike and Kathy Mechenbier and Leo Mendoza.

2002: Margaret Espinosa McDonald and Richard Melzer, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: John Michael Baca, Sharon Eastman, Bernadette Gallegos, Floyd Montoya and Carole Rowe, Corky Morrison, Pavlos Panagopoulos, Ruth Prater and Bea Sanchez.

2003: Luz Chavez, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Regina Elkins, Steven Gonzales, Pat Hoxsie, Billie Jones Sr., Marilyn Kaneshiro, Joe Padilla, Alana Robbins, L.E. Rubin, George Silva, Adele Thompson and Barbara Torres.

2004: Cristina Jaramillo, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Robert Auge, Judy Babcock, Louise Baca Ortega, Reina Barela, Lorraine Doty, Monte and Lana Fastnacht, Dale Jones, Jim Lardner, Yvonne Maushund, Marcel Reynolds and Martha Trujillo.

2005: Lillie McNabb, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Paul and Loretta Baca, Irene Dockery, Wendall Doty, John Gonzales, Amador Griego, Frank Gurule, Bryan Mascareña, Sally Milavec and Gloria Sanchez.

2006: Filomena Baca, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Sylvia Aragon, DeLaHunt family, Dolores Garcia, Karen Jarratt, Steve Kuenzler, Mike and Mary Merrell, Geneva Nixon, Mark Rosenblum and David Velenzuela.

2007: George and Diana Trujeque, Citizens of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Bill Brown, Manuel Gallegos, Sandra Gonzales, Jackie Jaramillo, Stacey Johnston, Tone E. Padilla, Joe Saiz, Mary T. Sanchez, Lydia and Nicole Trujillo and Richard Walker.

2008: James and Rosie Garley, Citizens of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Mary Andersen, Laura Avila, the Branch Coffee Shop Gang, Lisa Chavez, David Gabaldon, Therese Hidalgo, Maria Marez, Joe Marquez, Richard Tafoya and Doris Vesel.

2009: Louis Lusero, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Susan Cordova, Richard Ditrich, Jose Hernandez, Janice Knowlton, Robert Miller, Jan Pacifico, Ashley Rechkemmer, Hiltrud Ridenour, Arturo Saiz, Ronnie Tabet and Carolyn Taylor.

2010: Molly Madden, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: John Dear, Tom and Pat Fritts, Eddy Gomes, John Montano, George Moscona, Lenore Pena, Scott Rhodes, Mike Silva, Cyndi Sluder and Michael Vallejos.

2011: Matthew Aragon, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Helen Abeyta, David Adame, Jon Clemons, Peggy Gutjahr, David and Pamela Doster, Catherine Jojola, Madga Rundles, Daniel Silva and the Ditch Bank Bandits, Richard Chavez, Al Santistevan and Dennis Storey, Sandy Wells and Cindy Wacek.

2012: Jim Lane, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Cecilia “CeCe” Aragon and Patti Bucklew, Shirley Blackwell, Cindy Clark, Linda Erickson, Candace Johnston, Gene Kastelic, Gill Mullins, John Michael Nagy, Teresa Romero, Rebecca Romine and Jim Schnitzler.

2013: Martin Sisneros, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Baldwin G. Burr, Leona Herrell, Dubra Karnes-Padilla, Mike Moreno, David and Cynthia Moya, Casey Pena, Karin Trujillo, Richard White and the 13th Judicial District Court Free Legal Clinic.

2014: Charles Cox, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Bobby Caldwell, Bob and Mary Courtney, Jason Gonzales, Heidi Green, Jose and Pauline Hernandez, Helga Woerner and Senior Citizen Bands.

2015: Mark Rosenblum, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Fillie Baca, Rhona Baca Espinoza, Tom Hershberger, Jo Stasi, John Taylor, Daniel Torres and Jim and Marilyn Winters.

2016: Mario Tapia, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Jennifer Hise, Nicki Owen, Jim Rende, George and Loretta Torres, Lisa Wade, Theo Welky and Jeffrey Woods.

2017: Rosie Chavez, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Thomas Birch, Heather and Lloyd Cary, Rebecca Burkhard, Pilot Club of Belen, Karen Walker, Charles and JoAnne Montoya and Jim and Lynn Davis.

2018: First United Methodist Church of Belen, Citizens of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Morgan Nesslage Bland, Dorie Corrao, The Matanza Misfits, Tom and Betty Moore, Rustin Porter, Russel and Linda Orr and Marie Varela

2019: Kelly Cross, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Jerry Cline, Eric Green, Daniel Kloeppel, Christopher Martinez, Jim Sloan, Spencer Wood and Rob Sexmith and Silvia Trujillo.

2020: St. Teresa of Calcutta Soup Kitchen, Citizens of the Year; Frank Chacon, Sarah Gillen, Lincoln Hill, Valencia County First Responders, Belen Public Health and Valencia County’s Essential Workers.

2021: Deborah Baca, Jacqueline Kelly-Romero and Tia Montoya, Citizens of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Mary Hahn, Bart Regelbrugge, Hollie Riggin, Rosa Sisneros and Merita Wilson.

2022: Holly Noelle Chavez, Citizen of the Year; Unsung Heroes: Jessica Chavez, Gary Jacobson, Keller family, Gwen Mosimann, Jocelyn and Chris Padilla Hunter, and Clair Toledo.

Unsung Hero: Jessica Chavez

Chavez has been teaching at La Promesa, part of Belen Consolidated Schools, since it opened 22 years ago. She has taught kindergarten through fourth grade.

Unsung Heroes: Jocelyn and Chris Padilla Hunter

For the past 10 years, Jocelyn “Joshie” and Chris Padilla Hunter have been active in the 4-H community throughout Valencia County, not only going above and beyond for her own children, but also other youth involved in their club.

Unsung Hero: Gary Jacobson

A lot of local businesses will generously help support youth organizations and athletic teams, but not many will invite hundreds of teenagers to an after-hour event.

Gary Jacobson, the manager at Mitchell Starlight Cinema in Los Lunas, does just that every prom season for all students in Valencia County.

Unsung Heroes: The Keller Family

Since 1999, the Keller family — Mary Ann, Ron, Richard and Eddie — have hosted the Bosque Farms Car Show during the village’s annual community fair. Originally billed as the “Just For Fun” Car Show, the event started when Mary Ann was on the fair board.

Unsung Hero: Gwen Mosimann

Leading the effort to help find solutions for Belen Consolidated Schools is Gwen Mosimann, the first-year McKinney-Vento liaison for the district. Her directive is clear but daunting — find housing for homeless students and their families.

Unsung Hero: Clair Toledo

Toledo became principal of Los Lunas Opportunity Schools in December 2021 to lead the merger between Century High School and the Los Lunas Digital Academy. She said while the merge is an ongoing process, this will be the first year they graduate in a single ceremony, albeit with different gowns.

Citizen of the Year: Holly Noelle Chavez

“She’s selfless … through blood, sweat and tears, and focus on what is best for the most vulnerable in the community, she does a thankless job, but she wakes up every day and does it.”

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.